The Philippines and New Zealand have agreed to boost maritime security cooperation and affirmed mutual support amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.
In a statement, the DFA said the two nations made the agreement during the 6th Philippines-New Zealand Foreign Ministry Consultations (FMC) hosted by the Philippines on 04 November 2021.
The meeting was co-chaired by Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary for Asia and Pacific Affairs, Neal Imperial with New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) South and South East Asia Division Manager Andrew Needs.
The DFA said the Philippines thanked New Zealand for its recent actions affirming the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea, particularly New Zealand’s note verbale to the United Nations Secretary General which upheld the final and binding nature of the Arbitral Award.
The Philippines also thanked New Zealand for its support for ASEAN centrality in ensuring peace, security, and stability in the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific.
“In the three-hour meeting, both sides acknowledged the growing breadth and depth of Philippines-New Zealand bilateral cooperation, particularly in the areas of defense and security, health, trade and investments, development cooperation, people-to-people and cultural engagements,” the DFA said.
Imperial conveyed appreciation for the assistance rendered by New Zealand in helping the Philippines mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
New Zealand, for its part, highlighted its proposed initiatives on inclusion and diversity for Lumad communities in the Philippines, as well as its capacity-building projects in Davao and Bukidnon.
The DFA also said that both countries also highlighted the ongoing cooperation in the ASEAN-New Zealand dialogue mechanism, current negotiations on an enhanced ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, and New Zealand’s hosting and chairmanship of the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting.
The FMC serves as a bilateral mechanism to chart the direction of future engagement as well as review and support progress on key initiatives spanning the entire range of Philippines-New Zealand relations, it added/
The last FMC was held in Wellington in 2018.